VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis declared on Wednesday that divorced Catholics who remarry and their children deserve better treatment form the church, and he urged pastors to avoid treating these couples as if they were excommunicated.
Catholic teaching says divorced Catholics who remarry are living in sin and are not allowed to receive Communion, leaving many of these people feeling shunned by their church.
Francis’ emphasis on mercy in church leadership has raised hope among many such Catholics he might lift the Communion ban.
The Vatican this fall is holding a month-long follow-up meeting on family issues, after a similar gathering last year left divorced Catholics who remarry hoping in vain for an end to the ban.
In his latest remarks on divorce, Francis didn’t go that far. But he insisted the church must change its attitude. “How do we take care of those who, following the irreversible failing of their family bond made a new union?” he said.
“People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way,” Francis told pilgrims and tourists at his first general audience after a summer break. “They always belong to the church.”
Francis wondered how the church could insist that the children of these failed marriage be raised by their parents “with an example of convinced and practiced faith, if we keep them (the parents) far from the community life (of the church) as if they were excommunicated?”
For the faithful, being able to receive the Eucharist is considered to be full participation in the Catholic community.
He exhorted pastors “not to add additional weight beyond what the children in this situation have to bear. Unfortunately the numbers of these children and young people are truly great.”
The church also needs to also distinguish “between who underwent the separation in respect to how provoked it,” Francis said.
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